Pragmatism and the unlikely influence of German idealism on the academy in the united states

Educational Philosophy and Theory 39 (2):150–167 (2007)
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In this article I argue that the subject‐object distinction, operative in Continental Europe during the late‐1700s and early‐1800s, led to the religion‐secular distinction in higher education in the United States. Many scholars believe the origins of the shifting nature of the religion‐secular distinction resided with some form of influence that students from the United States encountered while they pursued advanced academic work in Germany. These scholars studied this influence at an institutional or organizational level. An intellectual approach to history would assess the metaphysical currents of idealism that proved to be the primary influence that students from the United States encountered during their time in Germany. While idealism would never fully take hold in the United States, it gave shape and direction to the emerging movement of pragmatism. As a result, the separation of subject and object, under the guise of pragmatism, is reified in the religion‐secular distinction in the academy in the United States. Once religion becomes the object of a subject, the subject's sense of self‐dependence forces the religion‐secular distinction. However, the religion‐secular distinction proves to be a transitory relationship. Inevitably, the underlying issue proves to be that only the secular can serve as the sustainable object of its subject.



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